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Early Childhood Services in North Dakota

Licensing Information and Regulations

North Dakota law (NDCC 50-11.1) requires the Department of Human Services to administer the licensure of Early Childhood Services (child care) and authorizes the Department to develop standards to regulate child care settings.

Licensing is one form of consumer protection. Licensed child care offers parents the knowledge that providers are regulated through standards and monitoring. Parents are encouraged to notify the county or state of any concerns.

Child care licensing regulations are designed to protect and promote child safety and well-being in child care settings. Licensed child care providers are required to maintain at least minimum standards related to:

  • physical size of the facility
  • safety features
  • cleanliness
  • staff qualifications
  • staff-to-child ratios

Licensed providers can participate in the Child Care Assistance Program, if they care for children who qualify for this program.

County social service offices conduct the licensing studies and investigations. The county's review and recommendations are forwarded to the regional office, which issues or denies licenses. All licensed facilities receive two review visits per year. One visit is unannounced.

Complaints are investigated by on-site reviews conducted by county social services. When county staff find a violation, the following actions could be taken against a licensed provider:

  • correction order
  • revocation
  • suspension
  • injunction
  • fiscal sanctions

Licensed Child Care Provider Categories

  • Licensed Family Child Care: The care for 7 or fewer children in the provider's own home
  • Licensed Group Child Care: The care for 8 to 18 children in the home or other type of facility
  • Licensed Child Care Center: The care for 19 or more children in public or private buildings, churches or schools; children are often grouped by age
  • Licensed Preschools: Part-time educational and socialization experiences for children age 2 years to kindergarten
  • Licensed School-Age Programs: The care of 19 or more school-age children before and/or after school; some programs provide care during school holidays and summer vacations
  • Multiple License Facility: Has more than one type of license such as a Center and Preschool

Unlicensed Child Care Provider Categories

  • Self-declared Providers: Care for 5 or fewer children or 3 infants in the provider's home. These provider are not licensed or monitored; they are eligible to participate in the Child Care Assistance Program.
  • Approved Relatives: Care for 5 or fewer children or 3 infants; are also eligible to participate in the Child Care Assistance Program. By federal law, the 'approved' relatives must be related by marriage, blood relationship or court order and include: grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles. A sibling who is age 18 or older and who does not live in the same home as the children for whom care is being provided, can also become an approved relative. All adults living in the home are checked against the "North Dakota Office of Attorney General, Convicted Sex Offenders and Offenders Against Children-Public List." These providers are not monitored.
  • Registered Providers: are also eligible to participate in the Child Care Assistance Program; are generally registered by Tribal entities

Illegal Care

An unlicensed provider caring for more than three infants or six or more children (of mixed ages) is operating against the law.

Child Care Licensure Regulations

The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care provides information about child care licensure regulations in North Dakota and for all states.


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